Do Americans think that Democrats have become too radical on abortion? A new poll from Marist says yes — although other polling looks a little less clear on the subject. The Catholic service organization Knights of Columbus partnered with Marist on this national poll, which shows a majority of Americans identifying as pro-choice rather than pro-life. This may not be the graphic one intuitively expects the Knights to promote out of their polling partnership:
If anything, this appears to show the pro-life movement losing some ground over the last year. However, as KoC CEO Carl Anderson writes at the Wall Street Journal today, this points out just how radical the Democratic Party’s positions have become on the subject, because it turns out that the pro-choice contingent is not supportive of the abortion-on-demand-anytime policy pushed by Planned Parenthood:
Hundreds of thousands of Americans will gather in Washington Friday for the 47th annual March for Life. Those who march come together to stand against abortion, the most significant human-rights abuse of the modern era. This cause unites people across party, color and faith. Yet many politicians throughout the U.S. are surprisingly out of step with what a majority of Americans—and in many cases a majority of Democrats—believe about abortion.
While most Democratic candidates for president have embraced extreme abortion positions, the majority of Americans haven’t. There is a broad national consensus that the current abortion system is wrong and must be rolled back. That’s the takeaway from a new poll sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, which I lead, and conducted by the nonpartisan Marist Institute for Public Opinion. The poll surveyed 1,237 American adults earlier this month.
Seven in 10 Americans support substantial restrictions on abortion after three months of pregnancy. This figure isn’t a fluke. It has been 70% or higher over more than a decade of polling. Americans oppose late-term abortion even if they want it to be legal at other points in pregnancy. Nearly half of those who identify as pro-choice (47%) support such restrictions, according to the poll.
Support for limits on abortion cuts across party lines. Fewer than 4 in 10 Democrats support abortion at any time and for any reason, while 62% want some limitations on abortion and about half (49%) would limit abortion to the first three months of pregnancy at most. So would 69% of independents and 91% of Republicans.
Even the seven-in-ten number has declined a little bit over the last dozen years that Marist/KoC has polled on the topic. That number started at 84% and peaked at 86% in 2009 before slowly declining to 70% last year, where it remains this year. Those who prefer unrestricted access to abortion in the first six months or all nine months have grown from 16% in 2008 to 30% now. It’s still an overwhelming bipartisan majority that wants to see abortion restricted to the first trimester, in cases of rape and incest, or to save the life of the mother, but it’s narrowed somewhat, too.
What is interesting, and worthy of notice, is that slightly more Democratic voters would prefer to vote for someone who supports more restrictions on abortion (44%) rather than no restrictions at all (41%, 55/41 when including the six-month position). That’s a much narrower split than campaign rhetoric from Democratic candidates would suggest, which is Anderson’s main point. When it comes to voters other than Democrats, the news gets worse for Democrats: independents split 37/62 between those two categories, and Republicans split 12/88. Overall the number is 34/65. which definitely makes abortion-on-demand a policy much closer to the fringe among Americans than it is among Democratic candidates.
Gallup has a new poll out today that somewhat corroborates the Marist/KoC results. They also show the gap narrowing between advocates of more or fewer restrictions, somewhat more substantially than Marist:
Fifty-eight percent of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation’s policies on abortion, marking a seven-percentage-point increase from one year ago and a new high in Gallup’s trend. On the flip side, 32% are now satisfied, a new low. …
Those who are dissatisfied with the country’s abortion policies are then asked how they would prefer abortion laws to be changed. Historically, most of this dissatisfied group wanted abortion laws to be stricter; relatively few wanted them less strict. On average from 2001 to 2017, about a quarter of U.S. adults were dissatisfied with abortion laws and wanted them to be stricter.
However, since then, the percentage wanting the laws to be less strict has increased to the point that roughly equal percentages of U.S. adults now are dissatisfied and favor less strict laws (22%) as are dissatisfied and want stricter laws (24%).
Gallup trends show that the rise in Americans’ desire for loosening the nation’s abortion laws is driven by more Democrats and independents holding this view over the past decade. Republicans’ views have been fairly steady, with relatively few wanting the laws to become less strict.
The polling in both series leads to two different conclusions. The first is that Democratic candidates who want to make inroads in heartland states had better start positioning themselves closer to moderate voters, rather than running on the elimination of the Hyde Amendment and public financing for abortions on demand up to the moment of birth. Hillary Clinton turned out massive support in deep-blue states with that agenda but lost in states where more moderate positions are far more popular.
The second? The March for Life this week is needed more than ever. Their theme this year, that pro-life is pro-woman, needs to be widely embraced and carefully argued to reverse some of the trends seen in both polling series.